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The Luckiest Guys on the Lower East Side: A Tour of Galerie Perrotin’s New Five-Story Compound on Orchard Street

A rendering of the New York headquarters of Galerie Perrotin.COURTESY PETERSON RICH OFFICE

A rendering of the New York headquarters of Galerie Perrotin.

COURTESY PETERSON RICH OFFICE

The new outpost of Galerie Perrotin, which opened last night at 130 Orchard Street in New York, has 25,000 square feet of exhibition space. To put that size in perspective, it’s not only the biggest gallery on the Lower East Side, where many galleries are no larger than a studio apartment—it’s also the same size as Gagosian Gallery’s space on West 24th Street, which is the biggest single gallery in Chelsea.

Emanuel Perrotin.COURTESY GALERIE PERROTIN

Emmanuel Perrotin.

COURTESY GALERIE PERROTIN

When completed, Perrotin will have, across five floors, state-of-the-art storage facilities in the basement, a ground-floor exhibition space, a bookstore, a second-floor exhibition space, viewing rooms, a third-floor exhibition space with 20-foot ceilings, vast office space with lounges and break rooms and conference rooms, a courtyard atrium in the center, and, on the roof, two penthouse apartments where visiting artists can stay while they are installing shows.

There will be plenty of visiting artists—Galerie Perrotin is a distinctly global enterprise, founded in Paris by Emmanuel Perrotin and since expanded to a few other spaces in the City of Light as well as outposts in Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo. When the artists stay, they will have a view of buildings that still bear large advertisements for the neighborhood shops, many since closed, that once defined Orchard Street as a place to hawk menswear: Sol Moscot, Joe’s Fabric Warehouse, Cohen Opticians, Grosoff Bros Haberdashers, Waldman Bros. Haberdashers, Sol’s Bargain House. The building now occupied by Perrotin was for decades the home of S. Beckenstein’s, which called itself the world’s largest pants matching house. The signs for the building remain.

“Isn’t it an amazing view!” said Peggy Leboeuf, executive director of the space, when I stopped by on Thursday afternoon. She has been with Emmanual Perrotin since 1996, and was now looking out at a new domain as assistants jabbered in French, getting ready for a rooftop cocktail party that followed last night’s the public opening.

The massive amount of space is a brash power play by a gallery that has over the years proved adept at bringing in artists that develop into high-producing market darlings, such as Takashi Murakami and KAWS. Galerie Perrotin has seven times the space of its previous home, a former bank on the Upper East Side that it split with Dominique Lévy.

130 Orchard in 2011.COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

130 Orchard in 2011.

COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

For the time being, just the first floor is open, and it’s a bit jarring to walk by a massive white cube on a block that was once packed with old-school fabric vendors. I used to go there to get elbow-ripped sport coats patched up.

The building was bought by Delshah Capital for $28 million in the summer of 2015, and, by the fall, Perrotin was discussing a deal to move in. In October, they hosted a two-week popup exhibition by JR, consisting of pictures taken during his residency in the ruins of Ellis Island—an appropriate combination of work and space, given that Beckenstein’s was founded by Polish immigrants and the Tenement Museum is across the street. During the run of the show, storefronts had been gutted, concrete and wires were exposed, and dust and dirt caked on the ground.

Now that same space is an immaculate exhibition venue, just a small part of the compound, which was designed by Peterson Rich Office, a firm started in 2011 by Yale School of Architecture grads Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich. The first show is “La Venganza Del Amor,” a solo exhibition by the Bogota-born, Paris-based artist Iván Argote, who has been with Perrotin since 2009. On Thursday afternoon, Argote was pacing around, switching back and forth between English and French with the various Perrotin personalities who had come in from the empire’s ports of call to anoint the new space.

“A year ago, they said, ‘OK, this is actually going to happen,'” Argote told me. “And many artists in the gallery asked us, ‘What do you think about this space?’ We didn’t decide, exactly, but we had some complicity with the architect. I wanted to have this open space so we could look at the space, and I worked on the lighting and how it’s structurally built.”

Installation view of "Iván Argote: La Venganza Del Amor”COURTESY GALERIE PERROTIN

Installation view of “Iván Argote: La Venganza Del Amor.”

COURTESY GALERIE PERROTIN

The show, on view through June 11, seems to hint at the construction efforts still ongoing in the upstairs galleries, where residential units were demolished to create a floor-through exhibition spaces, the first of which will open in November. As you enter, three gigantic concrete works in honeycomb-esque patterns hang from chain links—suggesting “fictional architecture,” in Argote’s words, or invented remains from a place that never existed.

Continuing in that Borgesian mode of fake ancient empires and their connections to real cities (the Argentine writer is name-checked in the press release, which was written by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s curator-at-large, Gianni Jetzer), Argote has displayed a new video work, As Far As We Could Get (2017), that takes place in two medium-sized cities: one in Indonesia and the other in the artist’s native Columbia. In both, Argote sought out the same specific elements—basketball teams, Nike shoes, people born on the day of the fall of the Berlin Wall—and found that the two places were pretty similar, despite being on opposite sides of the globe.

And the cities are in fact on opposite sides of the globe as antipodes, places that are a direct line through the Earth from each other, a concept established by the ancient Greeks. “They believed that there must be another place exactly like this one but the opposite,” Argote said. “So they invented this word, antipode, which means ‘with feet on the opposite side.’ “

In one of his installations, there is a painting of a leg with a backward foot. “These two cities are falling into each other, kind of like lovers,” he said. “I like the fact that we’re all falling into the center of the planet, wherever we are.”

Later, after the interview, I decided to look up the antipode for 130 Orchard Street. It felt appropriate to find its sister location, as there’s already a kind of gravitational pull toward the building, something drawing people who want to see and buy art—in a place that once sold pants and will now sell Daniel Arsham sculptures. The hustle is the same, but the wares have changed. So I looked it up and found the antipode of 130 Orchard Street: a point in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

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